Have you ever felt like your luggage doubles when traveling with a baby? Or felt the glare of a passenger as you walk onto an airplane with your child? Or cringed as your child wants to crawl on the dirty airport floor and cannot walk yet? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you have struggled when traveling with a baby and hopefully won't mind making it a little easier.
We flew 14 times with my little boy between the time he was born and two years old. Half of that time, I flew with him by myself. While our first flight was not too bad, there were definitely some times in there that could have been better, such as getting stuck on the runway for an hour. There were also some times where I definitely had to pick my battles, such as letting my kid crawl on the airport floor. Overall, there were a few things I learned that resulted in a vacation that was memorable for the right reasons and not a grumpy baby or parent.
1. Know how your child travels
Of course we all know our children, but do we know how our children travel? Even if you have not traveled with your child, you do have a bit of insight to how they travel that can help you decide how to proceed. For instance, does riding in a moving vehicle help your child fall asleep? If so, you may want to consider air or car travel during their sleep times. However, if you child does not enjoy this and you are pretty sure he will not fall asleep, consider traveling when they are most happy. Likely this will be in the morning hours. Other examples might include planning your trip events around naptimes and mealtimes and making sure to have those favorite toys along for comfort.
2. Call ahead and know options and regulations
Traveling now days is a headache for anyone, let alone with a baby. Call ahead to the hotel and know what options there are for the child. Most hotels have cribs for your baby and provide them free of charge. If you are staying at a hotel that provides this, it eliminates a very bulky travel item. Also call the airlines to know what you can check at the gate and what you can carry through security. In my experience most airports have been pretty good about allowing baby items, including food. However, I used to carry the car seat through the airport fearing that if it got lost in luggage I would be without a very important and expensive item for the trip. Come to find out the airlines are regulated to have so many car seats on hand in case this happens.
3. Check for items to make your life easier, as long as they are limited
If you do choose to travel with your car seat through the airport there are a few options available. We selected a car seat backpack so we could easily carry it through the airport. There is also a contraption that will turn your car seat into a stroller which can also help to transfer the child through the airport. Check out the travel section of your local baby store to see what is available.
4. Rent baby gear
In most major cities now you can rent baby gear, and sometimes you can arrange an airport drop off. When I traveled alone with my son I had the hotel provide the crib then rented a stroller and car seat. The company met me at the airport which was also important to have safe auto transportation as soon as we landed.
5. Plan for everything and plan for nothing
I know that this is virtually impossible, but give it a try. By packing more activities than I thought I needed, we survived our one hour being stranded on the runway. Also plan for flexibility on the trip as you never know what ultimately will happen. One trip we went on we had a few plans, but nothing firm. By working around our child's schedule we had a great time.
Traveling with a baby does not have to be a struggle. By knowing your options and traveling requirements and careful planning you can have an experience to remember - for the right reasons.